Russian Hackers On The Move: Demanding Liberal Groups For Hush Money

It seems, here comes the most frightening days for the liberal groups. In a report from Bloomberg, Michael Riley claimed that cybercrime has become rampant ever since the election, and now they are attacking liberal groups, as well as personal accounts. Vicious Russian hackers have been blackmailing victims, asking ransom in lieu of hiding malicious infos against them.

The Hackers and Their Victims

Since the U.S. Presidential election, about a dozen groups faced extortion. This new wave of attacks involves scouring the organization emails for embarrassing details and attempting to extract money. Though the identities of the victims are not disclosed, some of the few were known such as the Center for American Progress and Arabella Advisors.

Russian hackers demanded ransoms ranging from $30,000 to $150,000. Reports say that the criminals used strategies similar to Cozy Bear. Cozy Bear was the Russian group behind the information leaks last year from the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

“Cozy Bear has not been accused of using extortion in the past, though separating government and criminal actors in Russia can be murky as security experts say some people have a foot in both worlds,” Bloomberg writes.

Arabella Advisors admitted they received threats from an unknown source. However, it’s unclear whether the attackers came from the same group of Russian hackers.

“Arabella Advisors were affected by cybercrime,” said Steve Sampson, a spokesman for the firm.

“All facts indicate this was financially motivated.”

On the other hand, the Center for American Progress, an American think tank, though initially declined requests for a comment, has subsequently denied that they are one of the victims.

“CAP has no evidence we have been hacked, no knowledge of it and no reason to believe it to be true. CAP has never been subject to ransom,” Allison Preiss, a spokeswoman for the center, said in a statement.

Conspiracies Behind The Hacking Issues Exposed

Russian hackers formerly attacked personal emails of people who were part of the Clinton campaign during the election. Aside from emails, the criminals were also stealing documents from popular web-based applications like SharePoint, which lets people in different locations work on Microsoft Office files.

One of the personal accounts attacked is owned by Kate Albright-Hanna. Eight years ago, she was working for Barack Obama in his first presidential campaign in 2008 and then briefly in the White House Office of Health Care Reform. She was one of the few of have received suspicious emails from an unknown source. Now she is working on a documentary about corruption in New York and developed a network of investigative journalists and activists, not the most obvious target for Russian espionage.

“I have no idea why I would be targeted,” said Albright-Hanna, who now lives in New York. “It’s super weird.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation continues to investigate if the Russian government is behind these attacks. According to presumptions, the previous hacks could be an attempt to influence the result of the election. US intelligence also considers if the cyber crimes are in relation to Trump campaign aides. However, Russian officials denied the accusations of attempts to influence the election. They have also claimed they were not involved in any computer break-ins.

“I would be cautious concluding that this has any sort of Russian government backing,” said John Hultquist, director of cyber espionage analysis at FireEye Inc., after the outline of the attacks was described to him.

“Russian government hackers have aggressively targeted think tanks, and even masqueraded as ransomware operations, but it’s always possible it is just another shakedown.”

What President Trump Has To Say

The Center for American Progress is one of Trump’s most notorious critics. In fact, they pleaded for a deeper investigation to expose Trump’s inner circle, and if Russian officials are among them. This could be the reason behind the assumptions that the Russian hackers could be in connection with Trump.

Just last month, President Trump made a tweet mocking liberal groups where he accused them of sending protesters to congressional town halls.

“The so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are actually, in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists. Sad!,” the President said in his tweet.

Despite the accusations, it’s not identified whether Trump or his aides had undergone briefing about the hacking issues.

Just recently, a press conference was held where Trump shared his insights regarding the cyber crimes.

“As far as hacking, I think it was Russia,” Trump said.

US investigators firmly believe Russian President Vladimir Putin knew about and approved the cyber attacks.

When asked about what would be President Trump’s message for the Russian leader, he said “he shouldn’t be doing it. He won’t be doing it. Russia will have much greater respect for our country when I’m leading it, than when other people have led it. You will see that.”

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